The chosen ones

LEAGUE title winners Sheffield Steelers have three players honoured in the All-star Elite League team announced today.

And Mike Blaisdell is again named the Coach of the Year.

The British Ice Hockey Writers Association votes for the players and coaches who have made an "excellent contribution" to the sport during the season.

Defencemen Dion Darling and Kevin Bolibruck are picked for the All Star outfit as well as skilled centreman Mark Dutiaume.

They join Curtis Cruickshank, of Basingstoke, Jason Ruff of Belfast and John Craighead of Nottingham.

The award means they are recognised by the writers as the best in British hockey.

The writers said Cruickshank, aged 24, a former minor league netminder from Ottawa, was generally agreed to be the league's best stopper and revealed that Bison "had to fight off a number of mid-season bids" for their man.

The writers also fielded a second team: Goal: Jayme Platt (Manchester); defence: Jeff Burgoyne (Cardiff), Steve O'Brien (Coventry); forwards: Steve Gallace (Coventry), Mark Cadotte (Nottingham), Erik Anderson (Sheffield).

Player of the Year title goes to former NHL left-winger Ruff with Cruickshank the runner-up.

BNL player of the year went to ex-Steeler Tony Hand MBE.

Coach of the Year went to Blaisdell to recognise his "superior recruiting and man-management skills".

This is his fourth Coach of the Year honour, and his third in four years.

Should Steelers win this weekend's Play-offs, it will be his 13th trophy in 11 years of coaching.

Runner-up was Paul Thompson, of Coventry Blaze.

Other awards: Best British Players: Forward - Ashley Tait (Coventry Blaze); runner up: Tony Hand.Defence - Leigh Jamieson (Belfast Giants); runner-up: Paul Dixon (Guildford Flames). Goalie - Stevie Lyle (Guildford Flames).

The association is the custodian of the British Ice Hockey Hall of Fame, established in 1986 to recognise the players and personalities who have "given outstanding service to British ice hockey".

This year, the association inducted four new members to the hall - Blaisdell, Manchester Phoenix's player-assistant coach, Rice Brebant; former GB international player and coach Billy Brennan and the late Charlie Knott jnr, owner of the Southampton Vikings.